Big Business does some things that are utterly necessary in modern society. They build airplanes and cars. They run airlines, phone companies, credit card companies and banks. But there is not a person among us, including employees of big businesses, that has not withered with frustration from confronting these businesses with a problem and then receiving little or no results.
Even though big businesses get the most attention, the vast majority of people in the U.S. work for small businesses. Small businesses by nature are more reactive and responsive to their customers. They are closer to the customer and more directly feel the pain of any problem. I have a saying, “It is not that you make a mistake, as everyone makes mistakes, but it is how you deal with the mistake that keeps your customers satisfied.”
Our recent encounter with American Airlines is a prime example of the dichotomy between big and small business. We are not some random AA customer, as both my wife and I are lifetime Gold members. That is not to say the pedestrian customer should be handled as we were treated.
We flew First Class (via miles) to Miami en route to Lima, Peru. We received early notification our flight would be delayed an hour. Then it was a delayed a little longer and it became apparent we were going to miss our Miami connection to Lima. My wife -- who handles these matters -- had them change us to a flight on AA’s partner airline LAN, which is based in Peru.
Then I went to the counter and asked what was to happen with our bags, tagged for both AA flights. This person clearly did not know. I asked to speak to her supervisor who told me they should be transferred to the LAN flight. But she was not sure. I asked a simple question: “Why don’t you pick up the phone and call your people in Miami, give them the tag numbers and make sure they get transferred?” You would have thought I asked to dig up the grave of George Washington. What I asked would have been what any small business person would have done, but the supervisor just confirmed we were on the flight and sent us on our way.
Before you jump in here and think, why did we check bags?, I will tell you why. We have flown all over the world with various airlines and never had a problem. Second, our trip was for an extended time and I am partial to clean underwear and we are not keen on doing laundry on vacation.
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